Ninh Binh is about 100 km south of Hanoi, it´s called Ha Long Bay on land, since it has the same karts landscape as Ha Long Bay! I left Cat Ba town by express bus at 10:30 and arrived in Ninh Binh at 15:00 in the afternoon. I had chosen to stay at Vancouver hotel in Ninh Binh, but the express bus went to Tam Coc first a tourist place about ten kilometers outside Ninh Binh. The bus driver drove into Ninh Binh with only one passenger it was me. One needs to consider where to stay in Ninh Binh town or at a home stay at Tam Coc River?
I visited Cat Ba and Lan Ha bay for six days. I stayed three days in Cat Ba town and the remaining days at Xinh floating house in Lan Ha bay. I left Hanoi at 11:00 by Cat Ba Express bus to Cat Ba town. The journey took about three and a half hours with a short fifteen minutes break for lunch at 12:00 between Hanoi and Hai Phong. I paid 26 US Dollar for the express bus and the speedboat journey.
I visited Hanoi during April and May, staying in a hotel in the old quarters. The Old Quarters are a busy place in Hanoi! If you opt for a more tranquil part of the city the French Quarters might suits you better? It´s very interesting to walk around the Old Quarters, but you will quite easily get lost in the myriads of narrow alleys, in between the bigger streets. However getting lost is part of the fun and also necessary to see some of hidden family life of the narrow alleys in Hanoi.